Soccer  > General Soccer  > Islanders want to build on 'Giant Killer' rep
July 21, 2010, 04:18 PM
The team doesn't quite have the same cachet as Mexican squads like Cruz Azul, Atlante or Pumas UNAM or even American squads like the Los Angeles Galaxy or the Columbus Crew.

But the Puerto Rico Islanders have quietly been one of the region's most consistent teams, arguably CONCACAF's best kept secret.

Under the direction of Northern Irish head coach Colin Clarke, the Islanders have qualified for all three years of the CONCACAF Champions League, one of just seven teams able to make that boast.

"It's an honor to be able to represent the Caribbean and our league," goalkeeper Bill Gaudette said. "To be able to participate in each of the three years is an honor. It's not a gift or a free invitation. You have to qualify every year and fortunately for us we've put some success together to be able to represent our region the last couple of years."

This year, the Islanders earned their place ticket by winning their first Caribbean club championship in May. Gaudette is hoping it is the first of three titles his team competes for this year. It's a big reason he re-signed with Puerto Rico after fielding offers from Major League Soccer clubs.

"I felt like some of the success we've had down here in Puerto Rico we could really build on," he said. "So far we've been rewarded with the Caribbean championship, but obviously we have a lot more work to do. We want to go out there and win the [USSF Division-2 Pro League] and obviously Champions League would be a huge step."

Puerto Rico shocked the region in the 2008-09 competition, advancing to the Champions League semifinals before losing to Cruz Azul on penalties. Last year, the Islanders defeated Canadian champion Toronto FC to return to the Group Stage.

The Islanders would love to add to their reputation as giant killers, but this year could be its biggest challenge yet. Puerto Rico, which has struggled in league play, will face MLS leader Los Angeles in the Preliminary Round beginning July 27 at the Home Depot Center. The second leg is at Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium in Bayamon on August 3.

The goalkeeper will be tasked with trying to stop U.S. World Cup hero Landon Donovan and league scoring leader Edson Buddle, both of whom have resumed their form since returning from South Africa.

"The leagues in the U.S. have equaled out a bit the last couple of years in terms of quality of play so we're excited to have the opportunity to go and play one of the best clubs in MLS right now," Gaudette said.

"They have wonderful players all around the park. It's going to be a difficult game for us. We have two chances to give them a game, and we're going to see what happens. We'll go out to LA and give it our best and they have to come down to Puerto Rico, which not many teams like to do."
 
July 23, 2010  12:06 PM ET

I always love an underdog success story, lets hope the islanders can keep going!

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